Bob Dole. John McCain. Mitt Romney. These three men have something in common. Not only were all three failed Republican presidential candidates, but they also won their respective primaries on the back of an oft-repeated phrase: They were the only candidates who were electable.
This phrase, touted by moderate and establishment Republicans as a justification for assorted concessions to big government, has plagued the Republican Party. After all, it was the only way to get in power. However, these “electable” candidates failed miserably. Voters clearly didn’t want what the Republicans were selling: A wishy-washy, moderate stance that failed to emphasize the limited government and liberty Republicans claimed to stand for.
Zoe Harness’ article (“GOP won’t win with Rand Paul,” March 19) is simply a reiteration of these old arguments. Harness, to be precise, gives Rand Paul’s chances of victory at “zero.” She argues that some of his statements can be, and have been, misconstrued by the media to paint him out to be a bigot or a fool. Paul, then, is not fit to run for president, merely because the mass media have the capacity to misrepresent his statements and positions. Though this may be the case, the media can, and will, misconstrue statements from any politician for the sake of their own agenda.
In reality, Rand Paul’s positions are merely outside of what the establishment members of both parties perceive to be the accepted opinion. For example, she cites his opposition to the Federal Reserve as “radical monetary policy.”
This itself is a radical take, as Paul’s recent bill (The Federal Reserve Transparency Act) currently has 32 cosponsors in the Senate, and its sister bill in the House by Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie has 148 cosponsors. Even if there were no broad popular appeal — which there is — his position in favor of greater transparency and accountability in monetary policy is only radical insofar as it isn’t what the establishment wants.
These and other allegedly radical positions have widespread appeal, not just within the conservative wing of the Republican Party, but across party lines. Paul is one of only a handful of Republicans attempting genuinely to expand the GOP without abandoning his devotion to liberty and small government in the process. His support for the removal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a restrained and sensible foreign policy, and privacy rights has wide cross-party appeal.
Paul is one of a very few Republicans making inroads with traditionally Democratic groups, such as minorities and the youth. Paul has embarked on speaking tours of traditionally African-American colleges, reaching out with such issues as systemic criminal justice reform. He is also using unconventional techniques to reach younger voters, such as Snapchat. While some may claim his new approach to social media is no more than a gimmick, Paul is the only candidate who displays the capacity for flexibility in getting his message across. This is a skillset essential for any presidential candidate.
Rand Paul is dynamic, engaging, fresh, and appealing to a wide range of voters. His base of libertarian Republicans, Tea Party conservatives who applaud his stance on budget issues, and moderates who appreciate his willingness to work across the aisle while still maintaining his principles all bode well for his primary chances.
An American electorate yearning for someone refreshing, genuine, and daring to challenge the status quo could easily elect Rand Paul. Harness claims that the electorate does not want a dynamic, principled candidate who reaches across the aisle and dares to speak his mind. Instead, they want “bread and circuses,” mindless spectacle that appeals to their basest instinct. If this were the criteria, the best candidate would be an old, trained circus elephant who draws a smaller and smaller crowd. If the Republican nominee is as bland and “electable” as Jeb Bush, that’s exactly what we’ll get.